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Why the Last Interviewee Often Gets a Job Offer

According to the world’s leading experts on the science of networks Albert-Laszlo Barabasi.

By Victoria KurichenkoPublished 2 years ago 5 min read
Image credit: GaudiLab on Shutterstock

Imagine you are invited for a job interview. It’s your desired company and position, and you try your best to get an offer.

You are well-prepared, looking confident and formal enough to make a positive first impression.

Now it is showtime. You open a friendly conversation, try to establish a personal connection, and sell your skills as well as you can. You know an employer is already interested in you. Your job with the interview is not to change their mind.

Once the interview ends, you repeat the conversation in your head over again. You assess your answers and try to predict your chances of getting hired. It’s a stress-releasing and self-calming exercise. You patiently wait for the results and rely on your feelings to make predictions. Suddenly, you get a template answer:

“We thank you for taking part in our evaluation. However, we decided to proceed with another candidate, who we believe is a better fit."

I’ve got lots of similar rejections after my best interviews. I was sad, angry, frustrated, and curious who was that “lucky one” that happened to be a better fit.

The reality is, most evaluation processes are arbitrary and unpredictable, just like wine tasting.

Robert Hodgson, an owner of the California vineyard and a vintner, recalls one of the experiments with wine tasting:

“54 wine experts were invited to taste two glasses of wine — one red, one white.

In the end, the critics failed to spot both wines were from the same bottle. The only difference was that one had been colored red with a flavorless dye.

A judge’s palate can be affected by what she or he had earlier, the time of day, their tiredness, health or even the weather.”

Apparently, people judge circumstances differently depending on many factors. Mood, personal circumstances, biases can often play a crucial role in the decision-making process.

When all candidates are equally qualified and ambitious, how to decide whom to choose? What criteria to consider in a tense selection process?

Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, a Hungarian-American physicist and the world’s leading experts on the science of networks, described a random recruitment process in his book “The Formula: The Science Behind Why People Succeed or Fail.” He wrote that a company hired a guy wearing pink socks because all candidates seemed equally qualified, and after a long day of interviews, only the bright-colored socks stood out.

When choosing a marketer to work with among five equal candidates, I picked the one with a similar work attitude as mine. Surprisingly, she was the last interviewee who went home with the job offer.

In his book, Albert-Laszlo Barabas researched the phenomena of success. He discovered that performance is far not the core criteria for success. Many subtle factors can make it or break it.

I never thought the order of interviews mattered. Apparently, it is, as Albert-Laszlo Barabasi points out in his book:

"Performance is inherently bounded, but success is unbounded.

“What” and “who” of the interview — its content and its participants — are less important than “when.”

To all having job interviews soon, Albert-Laszlo Barabas recommends scheduling it as close to the deadline as possible.

According to Albert-Laszlo Barabas, the last interviewee often gets a job offer because of biases and independent factors that help them stand out among other candidates.

Last Candidates Benefit From the Recency Bias

Forbes defines the recency bias as “the psychological phenomenon in which people are more likely to remember things that happened recently than what happened less recently.”

It might not be the case if only a few people are invited to the interview. However, imagine having over ten job interviews in a short period of time? In this case, the order indeed matters.

I used to participate in marketing interviews and assess applicants at my workplace. I had seven interviews in two weeks. I knew the applicants’ profiles and filled out the reports right after each interview. In the end, I could only remember the first and the last interviewees.

However, the last candidate had apparent benefits:

  1. A stronger impression.
  2. I could recall more details from the last conversation.

The Immediacy Bias

Immediacy plays on human impatience and a desire to get things done now, not later.

According to the research study published in the Elsevier science journal, people often experience immediacy bias when making decisions about humanitarian aid. Researchers discovered that after watching four emotionally evocative films about various humanitarian crises, participants donated more to the final, immediate crisis, despite it was less deadly than others.

The exact implications can be applied to the recruitment process. According to Albert-Laszlo Barabas’ book, “the latest performers with the highest immediacy in our brains come out ahead.”

Despite having rational and conscious thinking, we often behave per human psychology. As it turns out, it might have a crucial impact on our decisions.

The Decision-Making Process Takes Its Place at the End.

I remember writing down, judging, and processing lots of information quickly when I was a recruitment committee member.

I usually assess marketing applicants besides my regular tasks. Since I don’t have time for a step-by-step evaluation, I always leave the final decision to the end.

I am not the only one who delays the recruitment decisions to the very end. Even if you find your ideal candidate early in the process, you still have to respect the invited applicants and hold interviews with them. This is why the decision-making process always takes place at the end.

With a stronger impression, recency, and latency biases, the latest candidates can outperform the rest interviewees.

Final Thoughts

You might think now: “What about the rest candidates?”

Is it disadvantageous to go first? I was asking this question when reading Albert-Laszlo Barabas’ book. He claims distinguishing between the top performers is inevitably tricky. When the difference is unnoticeable, people might fall into the delusion and favor the most recent candidates.

His implications are based on several research studies described in the book, so they must be valid to some extent.

However, let’s not forget that we live in an imperfect world. People with genuine self might rock the interview regardless of its order.

If you bring your unique self to the interview, a joke to the point, a smile, or pink socks, all these will make you different.

We don’t learn how to develop and sell our uniqueness at schools. Hence, not everyone does it, even though it makes enormous sense to do it.

If opportunities bypass you, it means they are not yours. Your moment of glory will come one day. Believe in it and be ready to face it.


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About the Creator

Victoria Kurichenko

Self-made marketer & content writer. Writing daily. Creating SEO-friendly content for 3 years.

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